Oia, Santorini, 2015.
I have a long-standing love affair with Greece. Apart from one year off last year, I have visited a different part of Greece every year for the last six years, sometimes venturing over there more than once in a year, such is my love for the country. I first travelled to Greece when I was 18, on a girly holiday with three friends to Crete, just before we all departed for university. I didn’t look at the country on that first visit in the same way that I do now, however. At 18, all I was looking for was cocktails and boys. Now though, there is so much I appreciate when I visit Greece; it is a country that takes my breath away for so many reasons.
Greece has been in the press a lot recently, and not always in such a positive way. With the country’s economical issues widely reported and also the news of the influx of immigrants arriving on the island of Kos, it’s been enough to make people think twice about visiting the country. Over the past few months, I personally have heard people say they were choosing to avoid Greece for a summer holiday this year because they didn’t want to run the risk of being stranded with no cash, being mugged in the streets, robbed in their hotel rooms, or they just generally didn’t want to spend a week in a country where the economy is ‘on its knees’ and there wouldn’t be a fun, holiday vibe for the tourists there.
I’ll be honest, the recent media hysteria and the opinions of others left me feeling a tad nervous about an impending trip to Santorini, an island I’ve wanted to visit for years. I ended up making the journey over to Santorini last week however, and it was a million miles away from the hysteria that has been reported in the press. It was a friendly island with a laid-back vibe and a wonderful week was had. So, as I sit here fresh off my flight and I reminisce already over the last week, I wanted to share with you just a few of my personal reasons why you shouldn’t be put off from visiting this beautiful country.
Whether you’ve been before or whether it’s your first time, here’s just 9 reasons – in no particular order – from me (although I could list more!) why it’s totally worth going and showing Greece some love…
1. THE BEACHES
Whatever kind of beach you are looking for in Greece, you can find it. From the lively, party beaches in the busier resorts, to secluded little coves and bays, Greece has it all. And more often than not, the beaches are a beautiful sight to behold, with crystal clear waters. A particularly fond beach-related memory I have of Greece is driving the small island of Kefalonia in our rented jeep and stopping off at one of the many coves located around the island. Each one different, yet each one stunning.
2. THE FOOD
The view from lunch – Parga, Mainland Greece, 2013.
Greece is famous for its cuisine and as a self-confessed greedy pig who loves to eat pretty much anything and everything, I simply love the variety and the freshness of the Greek diet. Many of the traditional recipes have been passed down through the generations, and adapted and perfected over time. You can’t beat a laid-back lunch of a typical Greek Salad, filled with cucumbers, peppers, feta cheese and the plumpest, juiciest tomatoes you’ve ever seen. All washed down with an ice cold Mythos beer, of course ;-) .
Although I am gradually attempting to cut down my meat intake where possible, I do enjoy to sample the traditional kleftico dish whenever I visit, slow cooked lamb with potatoes and my favourite ingredient – feta cheese, of course!
Without doubt, the best kleftico I tasted was at Caesar’s restaurant in Lindos, Rhodes. Offering a modern twist on a classic dish, it was simply delicious. Plus, the beautiful atmosphere of the rooftop restaurant, with views out over Lindos Bay, made this eating experience even more exquisite. If you visit Lindos, you must visit Caesar’s and after you’ve enjoyed your meal, go and have a drink with Yannis, the owner, at the bar. He’s a lovely man and Lindos legend!
With Yannis (second from left) and family at Caesar’s restaurant – Lindos, Rhodes, 2013.
3. THE WINE
Enjoying a little tipple in Koutouloufari, Crete, 2012.
Perfectly accompanying the delicious cuisine in Greece is the wine you can enjoy there. Although Greek wine is not something we may commonly pick up in our off licences and supermarkets in the UK – compared with the French, Italian, Australian and South American wines we more often see on our shelves, for example – the country is actually one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. You can share half a litre of the local wine with your meal in a taverna for roughly €4-5 and, nine times of out ten, it is very palatable and enjoyable. On many of the Greek islands, you can visit wineries and sample the range of home-grown wines on offer.
Beautiful Bougainvillea – Kefalonia, 2010.
Although not a native plant of Greece in particular, bougainvillea is everywhere to be seen in this fabulous country and serves to enhance its unique beauty, in my opinion. There is just something about the sight of colourful bougainvillea spilling down the side of a crisp, whitewashed building that makes me go a little bit weak at the knees.
Hiding myself in the Bougainvillea! – Kefalonia, 2010.
5. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO
The view from Ali Pasha Castle – it was a trek and a half to reach the summit but completely worth it! – Parga, Mainland Greece, 2013.
Wherever you go in Greece, you will never have a shortage of things to do and stunning sights to soak up along the way. The country is home to a range of monuments and UNESCO heritage sights that are guaranteed to take your breath away.
Beauty, history and culture is everywhere you turn in Greece and whilst its fine and acceptable to be asked to pay towards the upkeep of some historical sites when you visit them, you will also find that in some places you can spend a day exploring some of Greece’s amazing history and soaking up some breath-taking sights, and it is all completely free of charge.
Meteora, Mainland Greece, 2013.
One particular site I would recommend would be the rock formations at Meteora on the mainland. Meteora is one of the largest complexes of Greek Orthodox monasteries in Greece and it is literally a breathtaking sight to behold. You can easily spend a day exploring this area, and you’ll also easily burn off some of the feta cheese you’ve been consuming (or maybe it’s just me who goes overboard on the feta when in Greece ;-) ) as it’s definitely an active day.
6. THERE IS SO MUCH NOT TO HAVE TO DO
Perissa, Santorini, 2015.
If, however, you’re longing to switch off from modern life and spend a week doing little more than rotating on a sun lounger, then that’s also absolutely fine in Greece. As mentioned earlier, there are so many beautiful beaches around Greece that you can top up your tan in some stunning settings. Whatever pace of life you’re after, Greece is happy to oblige.
7. THE CLIMATE
Exploring Skiathos, 2012.
Greece is blessed with a perfect climate for summer adventures. Usually not too hot and never too cold in the summer months, it is the perfect weather for exploring or lounging to your hearts desire. Just don’t forget your sun cream, you will need it!
Sunset over Oia, Santorini, 2015.
You can spot some stunning sunsets in Greece and this past week, I was lucky enough to witness one of the famous Santorini sunsets in Oia. Along with about five million other people… Yep, it was a popular view and a struggle to shuffle to the front but once you got close enough and nudged all the selfie sticks out of the way, you found that the view was wonderful and well worth the visit.
Friendly little fella in Perissa, Santorini, 2015.
No post on Greece from this self-confessed cat lady would be complete without a nod to all the Greek cats out there! There are plenty of cats milling around in Greece, some which belong to people, some which sadly are feral or stray. However, increasingly, cat welfare centres are popping up around Greece to care for and neuter stray and feral cats in Greece. I could go for miles here with sharing my favourite Greek cats pictures but I thought I should limit it to these two ;-) .
‘Theo’, the friendly little cat who visited us every day in Hersonissos, Crete, 2012, and who inspired me to name my cat Theo one year later.
So, as I sit here with my Santorini tan already falling off, I’m resisting the urge to book another Greek trip right here, right now! I think I should just enjoy my holiday memories for now. Please do share your Greek holiday memories with me! What’s the best place you’ve visited in Greece? Would you go back to the country? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
(All images © Jennifer Smith)